Life Care’s Response to Coronavirus: Visitor Screenings, Resident Testing, Self-Quarantines

Life Care Centers of America is tightening coronavirus prevention protocols with a heightened focus on visitor screenings, increased communication, and self-quarantines — as officials report that that 14 of the 17 COVID-19 deaths in Washington were related to its nursing facility in Kirkland, Wash.

In the wake of the increased spread of the virus, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) last week announced halting non-emergency surveys, emphasizing a round of nursing home inspections across the country — to ensure facilities are following the agency’s latest compliance policies pertaining to infection control. CMS pointed to zeroing in on those facilities with prior infection-control violations.

Providing care continues to be “the facility’s highest priority,” Life Care Centers of America president Beecher Hunter said in a statement released late Thursday.

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Emphasizing the importance of increased communication, clinicians are making calls to family members to offer updates about “loved ones and respond to questions,” Hunter said, adding that the nursing home team is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the King County Health Department, and the Washington State Department of Public Health on-site. 

Staff and residents are being carefully observed to diminish the spread of the virus, which includes screenings “prior to beginning work and upon leaving with a specific screening protocol,” according to Hunter. Those experiencing symptoms will be self-quarantined in their homes. 

The facility on Saturday received additional test kits, along with extra support from the U.S. Public Health Service and the CDC, according to reports.

“Life Care Center of Kirkland was grateful to receive an additional batch of COVID-19 test kits from the Washington State Department of Health,” the company said in a statement. “We now have enough kits to test all remaining residents. Those tests are currently being administered.”

Life Care Centers expressed condolences for grieving families.

“Life is sacred and precious, and when it is lost, a little bit of those in their circle of friends dies with them,” Hunter said Thursday. “We extend our sympathies and our prayers for peace and comfort in such time of sorrow.”

On a national level, President Trump signed a bill for emergency spending totaling $8.3 billion on Friday, but even with recent promises for health care funding to combat the virus, many nursing home providers are concerned about running out of protective gear due to a nationwide supply shortage.

David Gifford, chief medical officer of the American Health Care Association (AHCA), advised members and operators experiencing shortages to communicate with hospitals, local and state and health departments, and each other to help with the nursing home supply shortage.

However, on a Friday call with reporters, Gifford admitted, “It is one of the issues that keeps me up at night.”

Gifford warned that supplies “will diminish” down the road, and that if there isn’t a plan B for vulnerable nursing home residents, it is probable that they will need to be moved to a hospital or elsewhere — which could be disorienting cause further health problems for these older, more complex patients.

“I think that’s why we’re encouraging sharing [masks and gowns] to try to minimize the moving of them back. And I think we don’t have a good sense yet of how long existing stocks and existing suppliers have to bridge until either supplies start moving from China, or they start being made more here in the United States,” he said.

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